May 2021 is the European Diversity Month and social media platforms are already overflowing with messages on diversity – both from a gender and cultural perspective. This is sadly still very much needed even in a country like Sweden where we regard ourselves as being ahead of the rest of the world and being role models.
The reality is that even now, a 100 years after we were granted equal rights to vote, Swedish women in general lag behind their male peers in pay, recognition and resources to develop their ideas and passions when they turn to entrepreneurship. If on top of this you are of a non-Swedish ethnic background the challenges become even greater. The fact that only a few percentage points of investments by both private and public investors are made in female-led companies is one that is difficult to explain in any other way than that there is (conscious or subconscious) bias in the selection and decision fora of these investors. On the other hand there is overwhelming evidence that companies run by female led or gender balanced companies perform better, especially in uncertain times. What a chance that both investors and societies are missing out on!
The lack of diversity in the area of entrepreneurship is at the core of the Care of Business Executive Women program that we are running at Impact Invest, with co-funding from Tillväxtverket (Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth). Since the inception of the program we have had the pleasure of working alongside around 30 foreign-born female entrepreneurs in Sweden, watching them grow – even during the pandemic despite the fact they are in industries that have been hit hard in the last year. It is so inspiring to hear from our participants on how they find new partnerships, new delivery models and new ways in which to develop their entrepreneurial drive!
So, will this program make a change? Good question – there are so many programs out there and sadly many of them don’t leave much of a trace after they have ended. How can we make a difference in the longer term?
We believe that our individual entrepreneurs come out of the six-month programs with tools that enable them to become even stronger in their ability to navigate their way forward. We are also part of a wider dialogue with Tillväxtverket on how the public support mechanism can truly address the underlying mechanisms and biases that are an inherent part of the ongoing lack of inclusion and diversity. Hopefully this can make a difference also at a higher level.
Our participants, mentors and lecturers stay connected through our own alumni network organized in the Impact Invest Foundation. We invite all of you who wish to be a part of this growing and thriving community to join us.
Together we can achieve a truly inclusive, diverse and impactful society!